What does Zaroff mean when he says "instinct is no match for reason" (from Richard Connell's "Then Most Dangerous Game")?

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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General Zaroff claims that "Instinct is no match for reason" when speaking to Rainsford (Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game"). Zaroff has moved on from hunting animals because they "do not have a chance against" Zaroff any more. He has grown too skilled at the hunt. In order to find a more "dangerous game," Zaroff has traded animals for human beings. He prefers human beings because of their ability to reason. According to Zaroff, instinct (what animals possess) is no match for what humans possess (reason). It is, essentially, reason which sets humans apart form animals.

By stating that "instinct is no match for reason," Zaroff is placing mankind above that of the animal. Since instinct is ingrained and reason is taught, mankind proves itself far more superior than the animal.

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amysor | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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General Zaroff says this when describing hunting for animals wasn't challenging anymore to Rainsford. He means that animals only went with their instinct, it was to easy to hunt. Animals did not use reason in order to survive, so he says that reason defeats instinct in means of surival. Which is why he later reveals he wants to hunts humans because they use reason in order to survive.


No animal had a chance with me any more. That is no boast; it is a mathematical certainty. The animal had nothing but his legs and his instinct. Instinct is no match for reason. When I thought of this it was a tragic moment for me, I can tell you."

Rainsford leaned across the table, absorbed in what his host was saying.

"It came to me as an inspiration what I must do," the general went on.

"And that was?"

The general smiled the quiet smile of one who has faced an obstacle and surmounted it with success. "I had to invent a new animal to hunt," he said. 

From "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell